As part of the process of informing and engaging communities in the regeneration of Pennywell, Community Action North [CAN] organised a study trip to Mannheim and Vauban in Germany to learn about the way different communities co-produced places for people. The trip was facilitated by Governance International, who bring a wealth of experience in co-producing better outcomes with citizens.
Community activist Sandra Marshall participated in the trip, with the purpose to dig a bit deeper and finding out the stuff that nobody talks about; what communities think about regeneration projects and the effect those projects have on community living. During the trip Sandra wrote extensively on the experience and summarised her key points and ideas that could be taken back to Scotland and put to good use.
- Community participation is essential from the beginning of the process you are going through, through the process and at the end of the process. It has to be values driven right from the very start. This caters for better communication, clearer expectations, and better outcomes.
- The production of a regular “white book,” at relevant intervals during the development of a project, and perhaps, further, provides for better communication, transparency, more defined objectives, and outcomes at every step of the process.
- The body or group managing the development of a project should make sure they have a clear recognisable structure and governance in place from the start of a project. This enables the group to go forward with recognisable clear objectives, to invite investors to invest. Eases the funding process anyway. If you are formally constituted and recognised by community and stakeholders alike as the body carrying out the development of a project it will inspire every meeting with confidence whether it be a community group or a stakeholder.
- Perhaps a competition should be held along similar lines as that of Benjamin Franklin Village development to find 1,000 ideas for the community area. I personally believe that going out there, explaining what you are doing and why and getting everyone involved from the start is the best way.
- There is no reason why 1,000 of the 1,000 ideas should not come about, however it is better to start small and vote on a few of the outcomes that you want to achieve building on that base at the end of that particular development phase. Quality is better than quantity.
- As with everything else, better the long-term view than the short-term fix it quick view. With participation, it takes time to change a culture and give everyone a voice, it takes time to plan and develop a project in outcomes based ways.
- It takes time to find the right partners for your project. It is always better to have a few good quality contacts as opposed to numerous contacts that you are not going to be able to keep in the loop.
- If you take the long-term view, there will be no burn-out of staff, you are more likely to get a sustainable project that is developed properly without the long snagging list. You won’t have to waste money, repairing damage and refurbishing again in thirty years’ time.
- You do have to create a decent project plan. Preferably a 3D version that can be contributed to by the community who are participating, one that can be changed or developed further as time goes on.
- A Certificate of Excellence, or some other similar award, is a good way to show appreciation for the folk taking part in your project and it can be used by some as part of their CV for future work.
- Participation should take place before the planning and there has to be a decent consultation period in put in place.
- Disabled people can be more involved than just on the side-lines and it is likely that some are much more skilled and more enthusiastic about the work we carry out. It is important to treat everyone as an individual with skills.
- There is a growing place for on-line Apps and presence in getting people to participate, especially young folk. The rest of us find it hard to keep up.
- Can we start building now?
Lastly, referring to the above points, apparently, I have been learning these as I go along and putting some of them to good use without realising. None of it is rocket science just plain common sense and, if I look back at the last ten years, even if not completed by me or my friends individually, most of what we set out to achieve has come about, Leith Festival is still there, although it is a bit too corporate now for my liking. Customs House in Leith is now open and providing space to community groups etc. There is a dry venue in Leith that is growing steadily, there are more places accepting, exhibiting, and selling creative artwork than there were and more studio space is being put in place on Leith Walk.
I am proud that I was given the opportunity to go in this trip, I learned a lot and I would absolutely love to put some of it into action in this community that has become my home and my place of activism over the last six-year period.